Date of this Version
McCarty, J.P., J.G. Jorgensen, J.M. Michaud & L.L. Wolfenbarger. 2015. Buff-breasted Sandpiper stopover duration in the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska, in relation to the temporal and spatial migration patterns in the Great Plains of North America. Wader Study 122(3): 243–254.
Buff-breasted Sandpipers Calidris subruficollis are a species of significant conservation concern. Previous work shows densities are high during stopover in the Rainwater Basin of Nebraska, USA during the northward migration. However, one of the challenges for understanding the relationship between density at a given time and total numbers of birds using the area during a season is the lack of information about individual stopover duration. We used radio-telemetry to estimate stopover duration in the Rainwater Basin during 2006–2008. Based on information from 24 tagged individual birds, Buff-breasted Sandpiper stopover duration in the Rainwater Basin is ca. 24–48 hours for most individuals. To place our results in the spatial and temporal context of spring migration through the Great Plains of North America, we summarized information on Buff-breasted Sandpipers available from eBird and other online sources. This summary indicates that migration northward occurs rapidly after birds leave stopover sites in coastal Louisiana and Texas, and that there are several areas in a narrow band in the eastern Great Plains where concentrations of Buff-breasted Sandpipers occur. Overall, our results support two primary conclusions about the role of the Rainwater Basin during spring migration. First, we confirm earlier reports that this species occurs in exceptionally high densities in the Rainwater Basin, relative to other areas where the species stops on its way north. Second, individuals spend a short amount of time in the Rainwater Basin and appear to arrive in good physical condition. Their time in the Rainwater Basin is spent interacting with conspecifics and maintaining good migratory condition, but evidence suggests that pre-migratory and pre-breeding fattening may occur primarily at sites south of the Rainwater Basin. The short duration of stopover, relative to the amount of time the species is present in the Rainwater Basin, suggests the total number of individuals using the region is greater than previous estimates based on density at a given point of time.